Who is Audrey Strauss?
Audrey Strauss is an American attorney acting as acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York. As Deputy United States Attorney, Strauss took the acting position on June 20, 2020, after the previous U.S. attorney, Geoffrey Berman, resigned under pressure from Attorney General William Barr.
The federal investigation into President Donald Trump’s corporate and campaign finances will fall into new hands with the departure of Robert Khuzami next month as the number two federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
Audrey Strauss will oversee the probe, which will become the commander-in-chief of the Southern District of New York. Strauss is no stranger to the office, having taken up a high position there 40 years ago and returned as chief counsel last year.
Khuzami, who will leave office on April 12 to return home to Washington, has overseen the case against Trump lawyer Michael Cohen since U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman recused himself last year for unknown reasons.
“Audrey Strauss, who was invaluable as Senior Counsel, will undoubtedly continue the important work of the Deputy U.S. Attorney,” Berman said in a statement Friday.
The Trump-related probes in Manhattan could pose a major challenge to the president, aside from robert mueller’s special counsel on the Russian election. Cohen, Trump’s longtime fixer, told lawmakers last month that he continued to work with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, arguably the nation’s most important U.S. law firm with expertise in finance, terrorism and political corruption.
The 71-year-old Strauss worked his way up in the Manhattan office from 1976 and was head of a professions department and head of the fraud and securities and goods fraud department. She left in 1983 and worked as an associate of the Independent Counsel in the Iran Contra scandal in the later years of the Reagan administration, and as Chief Legal Officer for Alcoa. She rejoled in the Southern District in February 2018 as Berman’s senior counsel.
“She’s really a first-class lawyer, serious and cautious,” said Gary Naftalis, the co-chairman of Kramer Levin in New York, who has worked with and against Strauss over decades of practice in New York. ‘She makes sure everything’s done the right way.’
Khuzami, who served as chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 2009 to 2013, has been the commander-in-chief of the southern district since January 2018. He presided over the Cohen case, in which the ex-Trump fixer pleaded guilty and convicted. up to three years in prison. The Southern District has continued its investigation into whether others at the Trump Organization helped with campaign finance violations or separate crimes.
“Rob has been traveling weekly from Washington, D.C., since January 2018,” Berman said in the statement. “While his desire to continue serving remains strong, he has understandably decided to return to his family,” he added, calling Khuzami “an extraordinary and brilliant lawyer.”
Khuzami did not respond to an email seeking comment. At a conference in New Orleans earlier this month, he acknowledged rumors that he was leaving, but declined to comment.
Craig Stewart, a partner at the law firm Arnold & Porter, is returning to the Southern District to become chief counsel, Berman also announced. Stewart, 60, served there from 1987 to 1998 and worked in both the civil and criminal sectors. He previously served as head of the narcotics department, deputy head of the criminal investigation and lead attorney of appeal.
Khuzami’s announced departure is the latest personnel change in the team that led the Cohen investigation. Rachel Maimin, who had been the plaintiff with the group’s longest tenure, recently left for private practice. Andrea Griswold, who was seconded to the team from the securities fraud department, has returned to her previous position, with a new member, Rebekah Donaleski, joining the terrorism and international narcotics department.
Strauss previously partnered with both Fried Frank Harris & Jacobson and Mudge Rose Guthrie & Alexander. She studied at Barnard College and earned her law degree from Columbia Law School. She was also a board member of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit that aims to exonerate wrongfully convicted defendants.
She joined Alcoa in 2012. Less than two years later, the company paid $384 million to resolve criminal and civil lawsuits in a years-long scheme to pay tens of millions of bribes to Bahrain’s royal family and officials at a state-owned company.
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